Reading develops an area of stimulation in a child's brain that visual cues do not and for this reason alone it is critical that children read and read often.
I have been fortunate to read some stunning children's books this year and I happily give you the nominations for the Grunter's Children's Book of the Year.
Becoming Animals by Olga and Christopher Werby:
Becoming Animals by Olga and Christopher Werby explores an idea that probably few of us have ever thought about. What would it be like to inhabit and share an animal's brain? Would the humanity overtake the animal, would the animal display dominance or would it be possible to co-exist and to share their experiences, understanding and view of the world. When eight-year-old Toby Crowe is left alone in her father Will's lab to play with the lab rat, it soon becomes obvious to all those involved in the BRATS project that Toby has an affinity with not only the animals, but the idea of joining minds and "riding" the animals. Dr Will Crowe heads up the BRATS programme, which is funded by the Army. The plan, initially, was to use rats or other animals to assist the Army in searching for survivors in the rubble of buildings as part of their disaster relief programmes. Other member of the Armed Forces, though, have ulterior motives for trying to meld human minds with animal minds. For Toby, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and whose mother is terminally ill with the illness, the idea of becoming part of another animal seems one way of leaving something of herself behind, when her illness eventually claims her young life.
As a concept for a novel I found the idea of melding with an animal's mind, in Becoming Animals, to be utterly fascinating and was excited to see how this would develop for young Toby. I became very invested in the characters created by Olga and Christopher Werby and consequently enjoyed this children's/young adult book even more than I thought I would have. The amount of honest research that had clearly gone on before penning this novel lent real authenticity to the tale. Much of what was discussed, I had heard in broad details in various places, but had perhaps not realised the possible implications - this was especially true of the idea of neuroplasticity and our brain's ability to reset and remake neural connections, at will, or as required. The book was an incredibly easy read and although the science might be above the understanding of some of the authors' intended audience, it in no way detracted from the understanding of the story. This story was unique, in my opinion, a rare quality in today's book market. I commend the two authors for their ingenuity and creativity and can highly recommend this read. A great job!
The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing by George Chiang:
The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing by George Chiang is a delightful children’s book that tells the adventures of Chiang’s grandfather when he first came to America in the 1880’s to work on the transcontinental railways on the West Coast. From a small farming village in Southern China’s Guangdong Province to the bustling metropolis of Guangzhou, where Sing and his companion Bo are kidnapped and shipped to Hong Kong, the pair eventually find themselves on the ship to North America, where their adventures begin. In the raw, untamed Canadian Pacific Rockies, the team of Chinese workmen face daily danger and death as they blast their way through the mountains to build the iron road on Gold Mountain. Despite the hardships and privations in the railroad camp Sing falls in love with this rugged country and decides ultimately to make his home there, among the indigenous population.
George Chiang has presented a beautiful children’s tale here in The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing. The book, with its simple, yet delightful illustrations, digitally drawn by Jessica Warner, would, I am sure, quickly become a favourite read for young people from about eight to twelve. It is just the type of book I could imagine reading to my grandchildren as they go to sleep. It is not too long to become boring and yet not too short to be rushed through in one sitting with a child. The personal connection that Chiang has with the principal character gives the whole story even more poignancy. The writing is perfectly suited to the target market age-group and the issues covered of immigration, race relations and the virtues of hard work are as topical and relevant today, as they were in the 1880’s. I can highly recommend this read for children of the age group. An excellent effort by George Chiang.
Jarius's Girl by L.R. Hay:
Jairus’s Girl by L R Hay is a biblically-based book aimed at probably middle-schooler’s and high school aged children that tells the story of Jesus, his teachings, his crucifixion and his resurrection through the eyes of a simple, young girl in the town of Capernaum in 33AD. Tammie is your typical pre-teen, full of energy and excitement as she enters her teenage years. Her father is the Rabbi of Capernaum, commanding much respect and honour for the family. When an itinerant preacher comes to town and turns everyone’s lives upside down, Tammie is as excited about this Jesus as everyone else in the small town. When Jesus begins preaching and performing miracles amongst her family and friends, both Tammie and her father are convinced that Jesus is indeed the real thing and may even be the Messiah that the Jewish people have been awaiting so long for, as prophesised. Not everyone is convinced, however, and to some Jewish people he is seen as nothing short of a blasphemer and a heretic.
Author L R Hay mentions that her target audience is young people, but that some adults have also read and enjoyed the adventures of Tammie and her family. I can count myself as one of those adults enamoured and moved by this simple tale, Jarius’s Girl. Hay has crafted a sweet, funny and strangely moving tale that I have no doubt many young people will identify with. To put is simply, this book is a delight to read. The author uses the tool of “reader asides” to engage her readers and I found this a clever technique that subtly reminded us that although these things may have happened two thousand years ago, they are just as relevant today and the morals and lessons inherent in the story are equally applicable in modern times. I say to any doubters, forget it is about Christianity and just read and enjoy the adventures of a young girl in early Palestine. I’m certainly not overtly religious and I loved the story and the message it brought. It is a story well worth reading and definitely well worth the five stars I have given it.
drum roll please!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME